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This coach is too focused to look elsewhere

india Updated: May 17, 2007 21:48 IST
Abhijeet Kulkarni
Abhijeet Kulkarni
Hindustan Times
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When Dempo Group Chairman Srinivas Dempo asked coach Armando Colaco to spare a few players for a photo shoot with him after the team's penultimate round match against Air India in Mumbai, he was told a categorical no. And the big boss had no option but to nod in acceptance.

"The NFL (National Football League) was technically still open and I did not want my boys to lose focus," Colaco put it bluntly when asked for the reasons.

This hard master attitude has not won the 54-year-old many friends in the football fraternity or among the journalists but it had definitely worked wonders in building a team that was almost disbanded by the owners after being relegated to second division in 2001-02.

Colaco, who took over as the coach and secretary of Dempo Sports Club in 2000, not only rebuild the team but has also led it to two National Football League titles, a Federation Cup triumph and Durand Cup crown. The latest feather in his cap, coming earlier this week when defending NFL champions Mahindra United lost to East Bengal, gave the Goan club an unassailable lead.

So did he allow his players to party after that? "Definitely, they had a small party that day and in fact we are partying every day since then," he told Hindustan Times on Thursday.

"On the day that we won the crown, I preferred to celebrate only with my wife and daughter. But there on I am also partying with the boys," said the coach-cum-administrator who makes no bone of the fact that there is nothing much in his life other than football and his family.

And the coach believes that the team is just like his extended family and has managed to keep his core group together long enough to give results. "That is the biggest strength of our team. Our nucleus has remained the same. Only a few players here and there change every year."

Speaking about this year's NFL campaign, Colaco admitted that he had jitters when the team lost to Mohammedan Sporting and JCT Mills, thereby allowing Mahindras to take the lead. "But then HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) gave us a lifeline and there was no looking back from there."

The Goan side dominated most of its matches and the goal average of +15 (36 for and 21 against) in 17 matches has been testimony to the fact.

"This win also proved that our win in 2005 was not a flash in the pan," said Colaco, who still feels bitter about the talk then that it was Sporting Clube de Goa who lost the title and not that Dempo won it. "This year we dominated all oppositions and lost just two home matches – against JCT and Mahindras."

But ask the coach, which title he savours the most and "first" comes an immediate reply. "Cristiano Junior's (who died after clashing with Mohun Bagan goalkeeper Subrata Pal during the Federation Cup final in Bangalore) death had shattered us all and I was not even interested in continuing."

"The management egged me on and the players showed a lot of spirit to win the crown," he added.

Despite all his achievements, Colaco has failed to get enough recognition on the national level mainly due to his "not so friendly" communication ways. But he has no regrets. "Its true that I don't entertain people much. But that is because I am always focused on football."

"And I am satisfied with the recognition my players give me by winning these titles."

However, having won every thing in the country – except the IFA shield – Colaco now wants a break from the dual responsibility of coach and administrator. "I am going to talk to the management and ask them to relieve me from coaching duties."

"I am not getting any younger and now I have started training kids in my home town Curtorim. We are preparing a ground there as well and I want to concentrate on that."

But as the secretary of the Dempo Sports Club, Colaco has already started planning for the next season and the AFC cup berth – for the NFL champions – has come as an added incentive for this meticulous planner.